Russian tourists catch upside of Greek downturn

Greek tour operators are struggling with the euro crisis as hotel bookings plummet, but Russian tourists are taking advantage of the downturn.

Roads closed, flights cancelled, the country's main port blockaded. Hotel bookings are down 12% so far this year – as thousands of tourists have stayed away from Greece.

But not Russians. Travel agents have only good things to say about the crisis – the weaker euro and lower prices have boosted demand for Greek holidays according to Aleksandr Tsandekidis, General Director of Mouzendis Travel.

“I can say that this year we will have an increase of about 30-35% of Russian tourists to Greece. This figure means that the results of 2010 will be even more successful than 2008.”

Even Russian tourists began to worry about the prospect of strikes disrupting their holidays according to Maya Lomidze, Executive Director of the Association of Tour Operators

“After several reports of this on the internet people started to cancel their trips – so this kind of trouble is a concern for Russian tourists.”

Lomidze adds that, unlike European holidaymakers, there is no insurance scheme to protect Russian tourists from closed hotels or cancelled flights.

“Russian tourists' insurance policies do not cover losses stemming from economic problems – unlike western tourists. According to EU legislation the tour operator takes full responsibility for anything that happens outside the holidaymaker's native country.”

Ironically it's British and German tourists who were the first to pull out. These are the main source of tourists to Greece. Yet Russians are pouring into Greece in such numbers – that it now ranks third, after the traditional destinations of Turkey and Egypt.